Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia Tech basketball program, coming off its worst season in a decade, is faced with the unenviable task of replacing the nation's leading scorer and team leader Erick Green in 2013-14. But for a team with no natural replacements at the point guard spot, the task becomes even harder. How can the Hokies account for Green's absence? We try to give evidence and hope for the upcoming season below.
In the 2011 blockbuster Moneyball, based on a 2003 book by Michael Lewis documenting the 2002 Oakland Athletics, the A's are tasked with replacing three cornerstone players (Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen) with one of the Major League Baseball's slightest payroll's. In the film, scouts and baseball personnel discuss ways to replace the players one-for-one, but ultimately come to the conclusion that they cannot do so. While I won't spoil the whole film for you, I'll at least give you the general conclusion I'm getting at: That no player as dominant as Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Jason Isringhausen OR ERICK GREEN can simply be replaced one-for-one. But he may be able to be replaced by aggregate. It's a near certainty that those players won't be nearly as efficient, but from a production standpoint, they may be able to come close to what he did.
While as I mentioned above, the Hokies do not have many contenders to fill that role, we will examine each player on the roster (both current and incoming) and try to determine how or if the Hokies can make up what Green did for them from a statistical standpoint. It's basketball after all, and someone HAS to score. As my college roommate once told me, there's a reason Mike James once averaged 20 points per game in a season: he played for Toronto, and somebody HAD to score. So, taking that to heart let's get started looking for a replacement(s) for Erick Green.
Before we start we should set some ground rules though. 1. We are operating on the assumption (which is almost always true in college basketball) that players get better each year. 2. We know not to put too much stock in recruiting ratings of the incoming class or freshmen in general. Freshmen in the ACC historically are not serious contributors and should not be relied on (with exceptions few and far between). And 3. We are operating on the assumption that all of the players on the 2012-13 squad will return and that no player, current or incoming, will suffer any kind of injury that keeps him out of game action next year, something that the Hokies have not had much luck with lately (knocking on wood more than you can believe right now).
Minus Erick Green and Joey Racer The Hokies return
- 46.9 points per game (based on players' averages, more scientific than subtracting from team total as it penalizes players/team for missing games (47.5 including Patrick and Donlon)), versus 45 points per game by simply subtracting Green and Racer's points from the team's point total.
- 30.2 rebounds per game (using same process (and 30.9 including Patrick and Donlon)), only losing Green's 4, compared to 31.8 by the other comparison.
- 6.5 assists per game (using same process (and 6.7 including Patrick and Donlon)). Green made up 37% of the team's assists. Subtracting Green and Racer's assists from the team total results in 6.3 assists per game.
- 3.7 blocks per game (using same process and including Patrick and Donlon, as they had none). Green and Racer had only a combined 6 blocks total, so not losing a lot here. The team will presumably still return 95+% of their blocks.
- 3.2 steals per game (using same process and including Patrick and Donlon, as they had only one combined). Green made up over 30% of all the team's steals. The total returning steals is 3 steals per game using the other comparison.
Projections (arranged in the following order: points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals per game):
Jarell Eddie increases statistics to 14, 6.5, 2, 1, .5
Robert Brown increases statistics to 12, 3, 2.5, .5, 1
Cadarian Raines increases statistics to 8, 7, 1, 1.75, .5
Marshall Wood increases statistics to 7, 5, 1, .75, .25
C.J. Barksdale increases statistics to 7, 6, 1, .75, .5
Marquis Rankin increases statistics to 4.5, 1, 2, .25, 1
Joey Van Zegeren increases statistics to 4, 4, .5, 1, .5
Will Johnston increases statistics to 3, .5, .5, 0, .5
Christian Beyer increases statistics to 2.5, 3, .5, .5, .5
Marcus Patrick increases statistics to 1, .5 , .5, 0, .5
Greg Donlon increases statistics to .5, .5, 0, .5, 0
Adam Smith averages 4, 1, 1.5, 0, .5
Total: 67.5, 38, 13.5, 5.5, 6.25
But those totals reflect having guys like Johnston, Beyer, Patrick and Donlon on the floor for every single game, something that is unlikely. For Johnston and Beyer, that might be more realistic, but especially with an increasing number of bodies, scholarship bodies no less, there should be even less time for those guys. So to account for that, I will multiply the above statistics for Johnston and Beyer by .75 (something that may be an undersell) and those of Patrick and Donlon by .25 (which is being generous). Adding those two back together should give us a more accurate picture.
Revised Total: 65, 36.25, 12.5, 5, 5.5
Those certainly look like more reasonable statistics, and match up much better with the Hokies' 2012-13 statistical line in those categories: 70.3, 35.8, 10.2, 3.9, 4.3
However, those projections do not reflect the contributions of incoming freshmen, as impossible as those may be to predict. So for the sake of full disclosure, add:
Donte Clark: 2.5, .5, .5, 0, .5 (lowest possibility of redshirt)
Trevor Thompson: 2, 1, .25, .5, .25 (low possibility of redshirt)
Maurice Kirby: .5, .5, 0, .5, 0 (fairly low possibility of redshirt)
Ben Emelogu 1, .5, .25, 0, .25 (medium possibility of redshirt)
Malik Mueller .5, .5, .25, 0, .25 (more likely to redshirt in my opinion)
Total: 71.5, 39.25, 13.75, 6, 6.75
Again, when looking at the averages from a 2012-13 (70.3, 35.8, 10.2, 3.9, 4.3), those averages seem high. So, let's get the most scientific we can be with these by both altering those totals to reflect the number of games each player will play in, and then afterwards, adapting those projected totals for the whole roster based on the minutes per game I believe each player will get. I believe that Clark, Thompson and Kirby (in that order) are the least likely to redshirt. And given that the Hokies will only have eight scholarship bodies returning (given no attrition due to transfer or injury and the addition of Adam Smith), particularly with only three scholarship guards and three legitimate post players, each one of these players fill a need. So for each one of them, I will leave their statistics as they are. But, for Emelogu and Mueller, two players who may be overkill with the addition of Smith, Clark and continued spot minutes and contributions from Will Johnston, I will multiply each of their statistics by .5, which is the ultimate middle point between them playing and redshirting, or one player playing and the other redshirting.
Revised Total: 70.75, 38.75, 13.5, 6, 6.5
But some of those numbers still look kind of high, particularly the rebounding, assists and block totals. The steals I can live with (even though they're high) if Johnson is finally able to implement his up-and-down game that we saw to begin the 2012-13 season, and continues to press, as he did late in the year to get the Hokies back into games.
The issue is, some of these players' totals need to be adjusted for minutes, as we can't expect them all to get the number of minutes per game required to reach those totals. It may be hard to figure out exactly how many minutes each player will get at each position (which wouldn't matter unless in doing so, it prevents another player at that position from being on the floor, something that will likely happen often), so it may be more worthwhile to take the aggregate of the players at a projected position. I don't know. We'll see.
Minutes Adjusted Projections:
Jarell should be among the team's leading minute-getters again in 2013-14, save for any more water bottle snafus. His minutes per game in 2012-13 were 30.3, and I'd expect that to increase to about 32 minutes per game next season. Therefore, Eddie increasing his statistics to 14, 6.5, 2, 1, .5 seems rather reasonable. He will have to take on more of the scoring and ball-handling load (uh-oh to the latter), and I think players will defer to him rebounding the ball, as they did with Erick Green and as younger players usually do to more experienced players.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 168
Brown averaged 27.3 minutes per game a year ago, a total that should only increase in 2013-2014. He was averaging more playing time before his bouts with black-holeness and confidence issues reached an unsustainable point for having him out there on the court. As one of only two returning primary ball-handlers (Brown and Rankin), and with the addition of Adam Smith and three incoming guards (should none redshirt), there is a lot in flux here. Coaches have said they wanted to play Clark at the point, despite him being more of an off-guard. If they do, and if he gets more minutes than expected, Brown's role as a ball-handler may shrink. But I think it's safe to say that Brown will get AT LEAST the same number of minutes he did in 2012-13, and I am projecting an increase to 31 minutes. That should make increases of his statistics to 12, 3, 2.5, .5, 1 plausible.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 137
Raines has always had two problems in staying on the floor for long periods of time (well when healthy), his foul trouble and his conditioning (though the latter has improved and is no knock on him. Most bigs his size have issues staying on the floor much longer than he does). That said, unless one of those three concerns rears its head on a permanent basis, he should play more minutes in 2012-13, particularly as I believe he could (if he ever gets fed the ball regularly) and should be the Hokies second scoring option in 2013-14. But with the addition of two more bigs and the chances that next year's team will do no better than this year's squad AT BEST, there may be incentive to allow for more PT for the younger guys. So, I'll split the difference and call for 27 minutes for Cadarian, an increase of 2.3 mpg. That should allow him to have increases of increases statistics to 8, 7, 1, 1.75, .5.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 110
Marshall Wood got off to a great start at Virginia Tech (although not when it came to shooting the ball) before his season was virtually derailed by injury. He reflects perhaps the best all-around player the Hokies have coming back. If healthy, I can see Wood as the team's fourth or fifth leading minute-getter very easily, as he averaged 16.4 minutes a season ago. However, with Jarell Eddie returning and C.J. Barksdale presumably doing the same, Wood will likely continue his platoon split with Barksdale and see spot minutes to backup Eddie when he needs a breather. So figure Wood fills in the remaining 8 minutes of time at the small forward spot and gets 35% of the minutes at power forward (allowing Barksdale a bigger split in what will be his only playing time, giving Beyer and Donlon their minutes and accounting for the influx of freshmen Thompson and Kirby should they play there instead of the center position), giving him 22 total minutes and allowing him to increase his statistics to 7, 5, 1, .75, .25.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 88
Despite splitting minutes with Marshall Wood and being in James Johnson's doghouse early in the season, C.J. Barksdale still managed to average the most minutes per game at the power forward spot at 21.5 mpg. Barksdale was often the invisible man out on the floor however, going long stretches where you could be watching and completely forget he was in the game. Barksdale remedied that down the stretch, at times becoming the Hokies' second-best player. And provided he stays after his rifts with Johnson, he should again get the most minutes at the four spot. He may still be getting a platoon split if you will with Wood, but I would say he'll see a slight increase in minutes to around the 23 mpg. mark, which will allow for a statistical increase to a 7, 6, 1, .75, .5 line. The one thing I am wary of are his rebounding numbers though. Since everyone else's rebounds are going up, and there are other more traditional bigs coming in, I'll pull C.J.'s rebounds down by 1, to 5 rpg.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 65
Marquis Rankin is next, and stands to benefit most from the loss of Green. Rankin so far has not lived up to his early recruiting hype, and could be characterized as one of the most disappointing players recruited in the Seth Greenberg era. However, he did have several of his best career games down the stretch in 2012-13. But as guys like Rankin and to a lesser degree Barksdale have failed to fully prove their worth, only slight minute increases can be projected, as their play hasn't warranted THAT much more time. Additionally, with a full freshman class coming in, it may be possible that either player is unseated or sees a decrease in minutes. For the time being though, I am going to give Rankin an increase to 20 minutes per game, up from his 19.1 a year ago. It may seem unwise to project such a slight increase as Rankin is the Hokies only true point guard on the roster, but with the additions of transfer Adam Smith, three freshmen guards and another ball-handling option in Robert Brown for the Hokies, Rankin will have to prove he can run the offense and take care of the ball first. I think due to his heightened status and experience, we will see an increase in Marquis' productivity and efficiency, allowing him to post statistics around a 4.5, 1, 2, .25, 1 line despite seeing the floor just about the same.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 45
Joey Van Zegeren may be the player most adversely affected by the influx of freshmen bigs. JVZ surprised many a year ago, proving that he is indeed a competent ACC basketball player worthy of a scholarship, something in serious doubt given the Hokies' history of tapping international projects and his underwhelming action as a freshman, as brief as it might have been. But unless he is heads and shoulders above the two incoming freshmen, JVZ's playing time may actually decrease. I project that he will drop from 14.6 minutes a year ago to about 14 minutes this season. That said, the vast majority of collegiate players improve from year-to-year, and that includes Van Zegeren (evidenced by his freshman to sophomore year, where he went from looking like a lost puppy out there to a competent D-I player in one year), I can actually see an increase in statistics to around a 4, 4, .5, 1, .5 line. However, rethinking it, I think I'll subtract half a rebound for the same reason I did Barksdale, plus the playing time. So check that, JVZ's projection is 4, 3.5, .5, 1, .5.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 31
Walk on Will Johnston was a great story a year ago, and logged some quality minutes for the Hokies as a 3-point specialist early on. But as you would expect, his fall throughout the second-half of the year was precipitous. After getting out to a scorching start in November by hitting 9 of his first 14 3-point attempts, Johnston made a mere 8 of his remaining 34 3-pointers on the year, good for 24%. If you're a 3-point specialist that shoots like that from deep, I'm sorry, but someone else should be playing. I love having Johnston on the team, and he inspired me with his early season performances, but with the incoming freshman class (complete with three guards, one a 3-point ace), Johnston is redundant and also out of his league athletically competing with those guys. Despite averaging 11.1 minutes per game in 29 games in 2012-13 (starting 4), including playing as many as 28 minutes twice during a failed experiment by Johnson to replace Jarell Eddie, I expect to see Johnston's role reduced drastically to around 2 minutes per game in this projection (which could mean either that few minutes or fewer games or both). Under that circumstance, I do find it hard to believe that Johnston can increase his statistics to 3, .5, .5, 0, .5. So I will subtract a point per game as well as any steal and rebounding total. That said, I hope we see a LOT of Will Johnston next year. It will likely mean the Hokies are winning.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 29
Christian Beyer is also at risk of becoming a casualty of the incoming class of freshmen. Played out of necessity beginning with Marshall Wood's foot injury that kept him out for over a month, Beyer carved out a nice little niche for himself in the Hokies' rotation, playing big-time roles in some of their victories during that span. Beyer, even more than Johnston in the end, proved his legitimacy as a player the Hokies can put on the floor in a crunch. He gave max effort out there each time (not that Johnston didn't, just lauding Beyer) and was a decent rebounder. He was exposed a little on the defensive end, but was unafraid to bang. But Beyer's offensive game is limited. He shot 1-9 from deep, a shot that he hadn't hit with enough consistency to keep taking, which landed him on the bench at times. He also was blocked around the basket more times than anyone I can think of recently. But like Johnston, I think the new freshman class pushes him out of most if not all of his 9.5 minutes per game in 23 games a year ago and down to 2 minutes (again, by this projection which could either suggest fewer games or minutes or both), making increases in his statistics to 2.5, 3, .5, .5, .5 pretty implausible. Therefore, I will subtract a full point from his average, a full rebound and every other statistic completely just to be safe, leaving him for the purposes of this projection at 1.5, 2, 0, 0, 0.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 27
Among the walk ons, Marcus Patrick looked like the best in the opening games. He of course was the teammate of fellow freshman Marshall Wood, and I thought the staff might have brought him in as more than a make-good kind of guy. In fact, Patrick was completely underwhelming from there on out, though he did show good speed. A lot would have to go wrong for Patrick to see the floor with any regularity in 2013-14. So to say he would increase his statistics to 1, .5 , .5, 0, .5 would be quite unlikely. I don't think he'll factor into the minutes situation enough to adjust, and likewise, his statistical production will not likely affect the game-to-game averages. So I will subtract his entire statistical totals from the team projection.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 27
Like Patrick, Greg Donlon saw very little floor time in 2012-13, and if he even stays with the team, don't expect that to increase. Donlon in fact got the least time amongst the walk ons, even though he did join the team the latest. I find it highly unlikely that Donlon will be getting any time next season unless the Hokies are blowing out an opponent. Therefore increases in his statistics to .5, .5, 0, .5, 0 may be possible, but it will not be on any kind of significant basis, so we will subtract his entire totals from the team projections.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 27
Adam Smith is the second-likeliest successor to Erick Green in my mind, and as such I have accounted for 12 minutes for him. I don't have any way to judge what Smith will be able to do but to look at his freshman statistics at UNC-Wilmington where he averaged 13.7 ppg., 3.2 rpg., 1.6 apg. and 0.5 spg. in 30.3 minutes per game. So while his minutes may actually be higher than the projection, and he may in fact overtake Rankin as the team's lead guard, Smith is more of a combo-guard, and is a volume shooter. Having both he and Brown out there for long periods of time could be disastrous for the Hokies' offensive flow. I think however, that despite the fact that Smith's body of work was on the CAA level, I will increase his projected average of 4, 1, 1.5, 0, .5 to 5, 1, 1.5, 0, .5, adding a point per game to the team total.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 15
Incoming freshman Donte Clark is the last candidate to replace Erick Green, and despite his lofty recruiting rank and his status as this class' best player, freshmen generally struggle in the ACC. Therefore, I'm not expecting much from Clark next season, other than to be a competent basketball player who is capable of giving a few minutes per game with some ball-handling and hopefully a little scoring punch. If he can put together anywhere near the statistical season I have laid out in my projection (2.5, .5, .5, 0, .5), the Hokies would be much better off for it. Since I think he will play in most if not all of the Hokies' games, I will leave his projection pat.
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 5
The issue now is deciding where the remaining minutes go. I would imagine they would not be divvied up between more than three players, and probably not more than two. So going for the two with the most immediate impact from a team need standpoint, Trevor Thompson and Maurice Kirby might get 2 minutes apiece and play in most games. Therefore, I won't mess with their statistics, even if it seems unlikely that they may get those in such little action. Who knows, with an injury, they may be in for big minutes.
Trevor Thompson: 2, 1, .25, .5, .25
Maurice Kirby: .5, .5, 0, .5, 0
Total Minutes Remaining Per Game: 1
And coming to the end we are down to the Hokies last two recruits. While you can't do too much in 1 minute per game, I think that some of the averages below are plausible. However, with such sporadic playing time both on a minutes and game basis that player would receiver, I will subtract both players' statistics from the team projection. The question is, which one will play? If it comes down to this, I would give Emelogu the nod. Aside from his 3-point shooting acumen that allows him to be an instant impact player and to do it while getting spot minutes, he is also domestic. And xenophobia or not, Mueller is the casualty of foreign players' history of coming into college basketball and taking a redshirt year. Generally foreign players are unprepared for the style of play and need a season to fully adapt to the game the way an American freshman would.
Ben Emelogu 1, .5, .25, 0, .25
Malik Mueller .5, .5, .25, 0, .25
Revised Total: 66.75, 33.75, 12, 4.5, 5
So there you have it, the final projected total for the 2013-14 team. You might even look at that as a conservative projection, especially given the Hokies' bodies and the intention of James Johnson to run up and down the floor. If so, simply find a place between the most outlandish and conservative estimates and pick your spot. While the three players primarily tasked with filling Erick Green's shoes (Marquis Rankin, Adam Smith and Donte Clark) were only projected to average a line of 12, 2.5, 4, .25, 2 here, essentially half of Green's scoring load (though higher than every other area except rebounding), with improved production from the rest of the roster, that kind of production from the point guard position might be adequate to get the Hokies back to the level of the team we saw in 2012-13 was on. I know that's hardly desirable, but with Jim Weaver's 2012 decision to fire Seth Greenberg well after the coaching carousel stopped turning and recruiting for the next two classes was well underway, he committed this program to a long rebuild, damning them to the team they were both last year and this coming year. Success won't come quickly, but hopefully as these projections attempt to illustrate, there will be enough to build on to keep this team competitive and give future teams a solid base to work with.
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